North, Ernest, 14, Police Constable, St. Albans City Police.

Paul Watts with thanks to Kitty Moores

PC Ernest North c. 1919
Herts Police Historical Society

Early Life.

Ernest North was born on the 9th April 1872 at Hockliffe, Bedfordshire. He was baptised on the 6th May 1874 again at Hockliffe.

His mother was Rebecca North. She was born in 1844 and lived with her parents at the toll gate known as Puddlehill Gate on the turnpike, or toll road, near Tilsworth between Hockliffe and Dunstable, where her father was the toll collector.

She had three children Minnie Kate born 1868, Elizabeth born in 1870 both of whom were born at the Puddlehill Gate and Ernest.

At the time of the 1871 census Rebecca was still living at Puddlehill Gate, with Minnie and Elizabeth. She was now the toll collector.

In April 1873 the toll was abolished at Puddlegate Hill and the property sold at auction. By the time of the 1881 census the family had moved to Chalgrave near Hockliffe. Rebecca was a straw bonnet sewer.

On the 21st June 1887 Rebecca married a John Griffiths at Dunstable. During the 1891 census Rebecca, shown as married and working as a laundress was living with Ernest who was shown as a shoemaker, at 22, Victoria Street, Dunstable. Within a few weeks though Ernest had joined the Army.

Early Army Service.

His Army Service Record and Medal Rolls have survived and show the following:
On the 15th June 1891 Ernest enlisted at London for short service of 7 years in the colours and 5 in the Reserves in the Grenadier Guards as Private 3044.

The following information was recorded: Ernest said he was a British subject and aged 19 years 1 month and he was born at Hockliffe. He gave his trade as a shoemaker but said he was not an apprentice, not married and had never been sentenced to imprisonment. He stated he was a member of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment.

The same day he was medically examined at St. Georges Barracks, London and the following recorded: Age physically 19 years 1 month, height 5 feet 9 ¼ inches, weight 132 lbs, chest minimum 34 inches maximum 36 inches, complexion fair, eyes grey, hair black, distinguishing marks mole on right cheek and a scar to the back of head. He said his religion was Wesleyan and his next of kin was his mother, Rebecca Griffiths 22, Victoria Street, Dunstable.

Having been Attested he was posted to the 1st Battalion. He was awarded a 3rd Class Certificate of Education on the 8th March 1892. On the 9th August 1892 he was appointed as Lance Corporal, but this was discontinued on 3rd November 1892.

On the 22nd March 1896 he was awarded 1d per day Good Conduct Pay. On the 22nd May 1898 he was granted 2d per day Good Conduct Pay. On the 15th June 1898 he was transferred to the Section B of the First Class Army Reserve having served at Home for his 7 years.

Police Service.

Ernest’s Police Service Record has partially survived and reveals the following:
Ernest applied to be Appointed to the St. Albans City Police and stated on his application form that he was born on the 9th April 1892 at Hockliffe, Bedfordshire. That he was 5 feet 10 inches tall, he was single and had no children. He gave his trade as shoemaker but had no current employment but had served for 7 years in the Army. He gave his address as 22, Victoria Street, Dunstable.

Ernest gave details of 5 people who signed the following:
We the undersigned hereby certify that Ernest North has been known to us personally during the periods stated, and that he is sober, honest and of general good character and that his connections and associations are respectable.
1. Benjamin George (late Head Constable), 5 Edward Street Dunstable from 1883 to 1898.
2. W. J. Hamblings (Lieutenant Colonel), Dunstable from 1887 to 1897.
3. W.H. Derbyshire (J.P.), Dunstable from 1886 to 1897.
4. Fred T. Garrett (Mayor), Dunstable from 1886 to 1897.
5. E. Rollings (Alderman), Dunstable from 1881 to 1897.

In a letter dated 6th July 1898 Ernest wrote:
Discharge “Exemplary”.
Sir, I have forwarded my application form, but I have not yet received my Army character from the Chief Constable at Winchester I telegraphed for it today at midday and will send it to you as soon as I receive it. Yours Respectfully E. North.

They apparently did receive it as a note on the letter says, “Returned to PC North 9/9/98”.

There follows a letter from Inspector John Nottingham of Bedfordshire Police, Luton Division stationed at Dunstable to A.F. Blatch Esq. (Superintendent), St. Albans dated 9th July 1898 which reports:
Sir, In reply to your request of the 8th Inst, respecting Ernest North of 22 Victoria Street, Dunstable, I beg to state that I have made enquiries respecting his character and from what I hear he appears to be a very steady and respectable young man. I have also seen Lt. Col. Hamblings, Messrs. W.H. Derbyshire, F.T. Garrett (Mayor), E Rollings Alderman and Mr. B. George ex H.C. they all speak very highly as to his character.
I am Sir yours faithfully John Nottingham Inspector.

Ernest North’s application was successful, and he was Appointed as Police Constable 14 in the St. Albans City Police on the 20th July 1898.


On the 30th October 1899 Ernest married Jane Sarah Hawes at St. Peters Church St. Albans. At that time Ernest was recorded as a Policeman living at Cross Street Dagnal Street, St. Albans. They had six children, all born in St. Albans, Florence Mary Glen born 1900, Ernest Henry James born 1903, Lillian Elizabeth born 1905, Dorothy born 1906, Leonard Stanley born 1909 and Herbert born 1913.

Recalled To The Army – Boer War.

Under a special Army Order of the 10th November 1899 Ernest, as a reservist, was recalled to Army Service and posted on the 13th as a Private in the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards. On the 3rd January 1900 he arrived in South Africa and served there with the 3rd Battalion in the Boer War until the 21st July 1902. He was awarded the Kings South Africa medal with clasps for 1901 and 1902 and the South Africa medal with clasps for Driefontein, Cape Colony and Johannesburg.

On the 10th March 1903 he was transferred to the reserve on demobilisation and granted 231 days furlough. He was discharged as a Private on the 14th June 1903 on the termination of his first period of engagement.

During the 1901 census Ernest was in South Africa but his wife Jane (shown as Sarah) and daughter Florence aged 11 months were living at 45, Church Street, St. Albans. His mother, now a widow, was still living at 22, Victoria Street, Dunstable.

Re-joining The Police.

The records have not survived but it would seem very improbable that Ernest would have remained in the Army for very long after he returned home. His second child was born on the 23rd August 1903 so at the very least he would have returned to St. Albans by the November of 1902.

Ernest’s mother, Rebecca, died aged 58 years in 1903.

In the 1911 census Ernest, a Police Constable, is living with his family at 13, Fishpool Street, St. Albans.

In 1916 The Watch Committee for St. Albans City Police reported that with the Army in immediate need of competent Drill Instructors Constables Benn and North had been seconded to the Army.

Army Service During The Great War.

Again, Ernest’s Army Service Record has survived albeit that it is part of the burnt collection and difficult to read.

Ernest enlisted at Bedford for short service, for the duration of the war, on the 28th April 1916 as Private 21952 in the Bedfordshire Regiment. The following was recorded: He stated his address was 1, Ver Road, St. Albans, he was 44 years of age and his trade was a Police Constable. He said he was married and had previous Army Service as Private 3044 Grenadier Guards having been discharged on the 14th June 1903 as his time had expired.

His description on enlistment was shown as: His apparent age was 44 years, his height was 5 feet 10 inches, his chest was 39 inches with a 2 inch expansion. He gave details of his next of kin as his wife, Jane Sarah North of 1, Ver Road, St. Albans. Details of his marriage and children were also recorded.

He was medically examined at Bedford on the day of his enlistment and the following recorded: He said he was born at Hockliffe, he was 44 years old, a Police Constable and found to be 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 184 lbs and his chest was 41 inches.

He was promoted to Sergeant from the date of his enlistment and posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion on the 6th May 1916. On the 1st September 1916 under reorganisation he was transferred to the 28th (Training Reserve) Battalion.

On the 2nd March 1918 he was transferred to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion which provided home defence in and around Felixstowe, Suffolk and remained there throughout the war.

On the 4th May 1918 he transferred to the Reserve Unit, Tank Corps at Wareham Camp, Dorset. The final records are difficult to read but it would appear that Ernest was posted back to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion Bedford Regiment.

It then appears that on the 18th December 1918 he was demobilised and finally on the 15th January 1919 he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve. Having served entirely at Home during the war Ernest was not awarded any medals.

Like every other soldier Ernest was granted 28 days leave when he was demobilised, and he would have used that time to arrange his re-appointment to the Police.

Re-joining the Police Again!

The records have not survived but there is no reason why the St. Albans City Police would have operated any differently to the Hertford County Constabulary in that Ernest would probably had to be medically examined to ensure he was still fit enough for Police duties and then be re-Attested as a Constable.

The Electoral Rolls of 1920 to 1929 list Ernest and his family as continuing to live at 1, Ver Road, St. Albans.

Potato Thief.

On the 18th October 1921 Ernest submitted a report concerning the arrest of Thomas Whiting for Larceny Potatoes:

PC 14 E. North states: About 8.10 a.m. on the above date I was on duty in Avenue Road when I saw Thomas Whiting, age about 50 years, no fixed abode, carrying a sack oon his shoulder, I stopped him and asked hiim what he had got in the sack, he replied, “Potatoes”, I asked him where he had got them from, he said, “I bought them from a man out Redbourn way yesterday” but was unable to say who he bought them from. I told him I was not satisfied with his explanation and he would have to come to the Police Station with me. He then put himself into a threatening attitude and threw himself on the pavement saying, “If you want me to go there you will have to carry me”. I sent for assisstance and PC Bennett arrived shortly after and with his assistance I put him into a van which was passing and brought him into the station. There was about half a bushel of potatoes in the sack. About 11.30 a.m. on the same date I saw William Slimmon, Farmer of Marshalls Wick, who had a clamp of potatoes in a field adjoining the lane leading from Sandridge Road to his farm. I showed him some of the potatoes which he at once identified as his property and valued them at 3/-.
Mr. Slimmon states: t about 8 a.m. this morning I went to the clamp to serve a customer with 5 cwt of potatoes, I noticed that the straw had been disturbed at the end of the clamp where my “Great Scott” potatoes are stored, and that there was a hollow place where some had been taken away. I have been missing potatoes for some time and have informed the County Police.
When shown the potatoes he identified them as his property and valued them at 3/- and said he was willinng to prosecute.

As the theft occurred in an area Policed by the Hertford County Constabulary the report was sent to them which generated a response by Alfred Law, Chief Constable.

To The Chief Constable, City Police Office, St. Albans dated 25th October 1921.
Dear Sir, Police -V- Whiting, Larceny Potatoes.
The reports in this case have been forwarded to me and I shall be very glad if you will kindly convey to Police Constable North of your force my expression of appreciation of the services rendered in the apprehension and conviction of the thief. Your faithfully Alfred Law, Lieuteant Colonel, Chiel Constable.

Retirement And Life After The Police.

In July 1923 Ernest North retired as a Constable on the completion of his 25 years service receiving an annual pension of £153/13/4.

The 1930 Electoral Roll shows Ernest and his family as now lving at 5, Hill Street, St Albans.

The 1939 Register lists Ernest, who is recorded as a retired Policeman, as living at 18, Willow Crescent, St. Albans.

On the 7th January 1954 Ernest’s wife Jane died.

On the 8th April 1959 Ernest North of 84, Woodlands Drive, St. Albans died at 16, Alpha House, Kilburn Par, London.

This page was added on 12/03/2020.

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